I will disagree with most commenters -- there is no support for the commerce clause implying any kind of regulatory limitations in this decision. Any discussion of the commerce clause and what the Supreme said about it is irrelevant. By this decision, Congress can essentially mandate any activity it pleases as long as it imposes a financial penalty for an individual who ignores the mandate. SCOTUS upheld that the commerce clause has limits, and then made these limits irrelevant.
Archive for the ‘Regulation’ Category.
European economic problems must be due to the "austerity" (which means, in popular Leftist use, not growing government spending faster than the rate of inflation). I am sure this kind of thing has nothing to do with high unemployment rates. I would certainly be really excited to hire more employees under these conditions:
For most Europeans, almost nothing is more prized than their four to six weeks of guaranteed annual vacation leave. But it was not clear just how sacrosanct that time off was until Thursday, when Europe’s highest court ruled that workers who happened to get sick on vacation were legally entitled to take another [paid] vacation.“The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure,” the Court of Justice of the European Union, based in Luxembourg, ruled in a case involving department store workers in Spain. “The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.
I just opened a summer-seasonal camping business in Washington state. Given that I mainly need relatively unskilled help landscaping and cleaning up from Memorial Day to Labor Day, one would think that this would be a natural place for high school kids to look for work.
Well, check out my new Washington business license. This is not something unusual for me, it's the standard form issued to all businesses. Check out the last line.
You can do anything you want, but for God sakes don't employ any high school kids over the summer.
Sorry teens. I don't know what kind of special application is required to get the state's permission to employ you, and I don't have time to find out -- particularly since whatever additional license to hire teenagers that I need to obtain is likely to entail all kinds of onerous special rules and reporting requirements.
Update: I get asked this a lot when I post such business licenses. "Foreign Profit Corporation" does not mean that I am based in Sri Lanka, "foreign" in this context means that my original corporate registration is in another state.
I will give kudos to WA state on one dimension -- most states will issue me separate numbers for my withholding account, my sales tax account, my workers comp account, my unemployment account, my secretary of state registration, etc. WA issues a single number for everything.
Stupid bank structuring laws that allow the government to seize your property without due process if they don't like the size or pattern of your cash deposits. All in the name of going after drug dealers.
I run a cash business. It is not at all unusual that we might have $9000-ish a week deposits through the summer months at certain large locations. If some bored Fed were to decide tomorrow that these looked suspicious, they could seize all my bank accounts, effectively bankrupting my business, and then force me to try to get my money back in the courts (where the burden of proof is on me, not the government). All the while with a set of incentives such that the Feds get to keep any of my money for their own departmental use if they thwart my efforts to get it back. And all without any need to go to a judge to sign anything or even offer a shred of proof that I am engaged in an illegal activity. Making deposits just under $10,000 is effectively a crime in and of itself, and the only thing that protects me from abuse is my hope for the goodwill of the Feds that they won't abuse their power.
This is the kind of Faustian bargain we have made for ourselves in the war on drugs, and it needs to end.
A guest blogger on Megan McArdle's blog writes:
Here's my first such idea:
Abolish Mortgage-Backed Securities (and Offspring)
CDOs and credit default swaps don't kill financial systems, mortgages kill financial systems. There has been altogether too much opproprium directed at CDOs, credit default swaps and other structuring techniques that spread financial contagion, and not enough directed at the underlying collateral. The record seems to be, however, that Dick Pratt was correct when he called the mortgage "the neutron bomb of financial products."
This makes no sense. I don't have time for a comprehensive argument, so here are a few bullet points:
- His argument rests on the fact that mortgages have inherently hard-to-quantify risks. I don't believe that, given how long the financial system worked just fine writing mortgages, but if this is really the case, shouldn't he be proposing to ban mortgages, not just mortgage-backed securities?
- Holding the higher-quality tranches of an MBS simply cannot, by any mechanism I can fathom, be more risky than holding a lot of individual mortgages. In fact, for a given bank, it should spread the risk geographically and to a larger number of mortgages.
- The first actual problem with MBS's is that the default risks were under-estimated by those packaging the securities. Basically, the top AAA tranches were too large (or too wide, I think the term is). This is correctable, and likely already has been corrected (In fact it had more to do with the actions of the government-enforced credit rating oligopoly than with actions of bankers).
- The second actual problem with MBS's is that the default risks were under-estimated by government regulators world-wide when in Basil II and the equivalent US law changes c. 1991, MBS's were given very preferential capital requirement treatment. Basically, MBS were treated, for capital requirements, as if they were nearly as risk-free as US treasuries, providing incentives for banks to over-weight in them.
- The largest problem was the reduction in credit requirements for mortgages. Increasing LTV from 80% to 97% or 100% or even 100%+ hugely increased the risk of default, and no one really took that into account in MBS packaging or bank capital requirements. Bank capital requirements for mortgages and MBS were set as if they were European style recourse loans with 80% LTV. But the same regulations and requirements applied to MBS built on US-style non-recourse loans with 97% LTV, which is crazy.
Here is a better plan:
- Narrow the AAA tranches of MBS
- Fix bank capital requirements vis a vis mortgages and MBS
- Stop encouraging high loan to values on mortgages
Seriously, it takes over $1000, 1460 hours of special education, and the passing of two tests to be a floor sanding contractor in Nevada. This is an amazing roundup of state licensure requirements, via Reason. Note the profession at the top of the list of requirements, which by implication is the most dangerous possible activity to customers if it is done poorly.
A reminder from Milton Friedman on professional licensing:
The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who may be a plumber.
I already had this column at Forbes in the works, but I could not resist switching the protagonist from myself to Obama's Julia. Every tax, license, and story here are real ones I have experienced in my business. Here is just a small sample:
So twelve registration numbers and 12 monthly/quarterly/yearly reports later, surely Julia has fulfilled all her obligations to the government. Unfortunately, no, because she has not even begun to address licensing issues. To begin, the County will require that she get an occupancy permit for her campground, which must be renewed annually. This seemed surprisingly easy, until someone from the County noticed she had removed an old rotting wooden deck from the back of her store that had been a safety issue and an eyesore. It turns out she was in violation of County law because she did not get a removal permit first. She was required to get a permit retroactively, which eventually required payments to seven different County agencies and at one point required, for a reason she never understood, the collection and testing of a soil sample.
Because she will be selling packaged foods in her store (e.g. chips and pop-tarts), she also has to get a health department license and inspection. She had originally intended to keep some fresh-brewed coffee for customers in the store, but it turned out that required a higher-level health license and eight hours training in food handling. She might have been willing to pursue it, but the inspector told her that to make coffee, she would need to install a three-basin stainless steel wash-up sink plus a separate mop sink in her store, and she decided that coffee would have to wait.
Once through the general health licensing process, she then needed to obtain licenses for individual products. She wanted to sell aspirin, so she had to get a state over-the counter drug sale license. She knew that customers would want cigarettes, so she had to obtain a tobacco sales license. One day as she was setting up, a state inspector noticed she had a carton of eggs in her cooler, and notified her she needed a state license to sell eggs (as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up). And then there was the problem of beer.
I have written a lot about government-provided health care as a Trojan Horse for government micro-management of individual behaviors. The logic is that once the government is paying for your health care, your decisions that once only affected yourself now affect public costs. Here is a great example:
Touting new recommendations from an Institute of Medicine panel on obesity on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, science correspondent Robert Bazell proclaimed to viewers: "...a sea change in how we perceive obesity. No longer a question of individual responsibility, but a need to change what's called an 'obesity-promoting environment.' Calling on corporations, government and individuals to act."...
Bazell further pushed the findings: "With the cost of treating obesity-related illnesses approaching $200 billion a year, many on the panel say the nation is ready to act."
I wonder how many feminists who were pretended to be libertarian rather than just pro-abortion by arguing "keep government policy out of my body" are all-in on this type of food consumption regulation? I would bet a lot.
Update: Here is an idea -- let's deal with the perceived issue of people eating poorly by ... licensing nutritionists to make their advice scarcer and more expensive. And here too.
This represents such an entirely different vision of the role of the state from mine that it is hard to believe we are even talking about the same thing.
It is amazing the number of goofy ideas folks have generated to try to substitute for prices in matching supply and demand. And none of them ever work. David Zetland has a good example in the world of water, where politicians are willing to jump through just about any hoop to avoid matching water supply and demand via prices.
One of the complexities of analyzing causes of the financial crash was that there were two simultaneous leveraging events. Clearly, financial firms were over-leveraging securitized mortgages and their derivatives. But at the same time, home buyers were over-leveraging their real estate assets:
In 1989, only 1 in 230 homebuyers bought a house with a down payment of 3% or less. In 2003, the ratio was 1 in 7. By 2007, it was 1 in 3.
These charts make the case that government policy had a lot to do with this change.
I have been reading of late some histories of Germany in the 1930's, with a particular emphasis on racial laws and policy. Over time the expanding bans on Jewish participation in the economy and society as well as preferences given to non-Jews for government jobs led to some practical problems, including:
- What percentage of Jewish blood made one Jewish? The Nazis messed around with this problem a long time, in part because of Hitler's absolute reluctance to get involved in such details. Was it one grandparent? Three grandparents?
- How does one test for such things? In the thirties, there was an boom in geneology research in Germany, as everyone raced around trying to figure out what evidence was sufficient to establish someone's race
It would be nice to think we put this kind of thing to bed, but here we are in the 21st century running around trying to answer the exact same questions
- Does 1/32 Cherokee blood make Elizabeth Warren the member of a protected group? Does 1/8 black blood mean George Zimmerman is not a racist?
- We are building infrastructures to make rulings on race. I found this story amazing
This story reminded me of the 1980s case of the twin red-haired Boston firefighters who claimed to be black, based on a photo of a great-grandmother and alleged oral history. While I remembered that they had gotten fired for their alleged fraud, I didn’t remember this detail:
Under current rules, said [general counsel to the state personnel office] Ms. Dale, candidates who say they are members of minority groups are judged by appearance, documented personal history and identification with a minority community. Disputes over claims of minority status are resolved by the Department of Personnel Administration.
And indeed, there eventually was a two-day administrative hearing, in which the hearing officer determined that the twins failed all three criteria, and thus were not black. A judge upheld the ruling, finding that the twins had claimed minority status in bad faith.I have to admit being under the impression until now that as a legal matter, minority status was an in issue of self-reporting. But at least in the Massachusetts Civil Service system, one can get fired for “racial fraud.”
- Every year, in the name of some sort of racial harmony, I have to sit down and report to the government on the race of each of my employees. For 364 days a year I can ignore the race of my employees, but one day a year the government makes me wallow in it. Here are part of the instructions:
Self-identification is the preferred method of identifying the race and ethnic information necessary for the EEO-1 report. Employers are required to attempt to allow employees to use self-identification to complete the EEO-1 report. If an employee declines to self-identify, employment records or observer identification may be used.
Where records are maintained, it is recommended that they be kept separately from the employees basic personnel file or other records available to those responsible for personnel decisions.
Race and ethnic designations as used by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission do not denote scientific definitions of anthropological origins.
I am told we are trying to create a society free of racism, but the results sure look a lot like racism to me.
From California State contract language I am reviewing:
During the performance of this Contract, Concessionaire and its employees shall not unlawfully discriminate, harass, or allow harassment against any employee, applicant for employment, or any member of the public because of sex, sexual orientation, race, color, religious creed, marital status, need for family and medical care leave, ancestry, national origin, medical condition (cancer/genetic characteristics), age (40 and above), disability (mental and physical) including HIV and AIDS, need for pregnancy disability leave, or need for reasonable accommodation.
This is at least double the length of such passages in contracts I saw 8 years ago. I wonder what the list will look like in another 10 years?
This used to be simple -- treat everyone equally. But this is no longer sufficient to conform. New groups added to the list require accommodations of one sort or another. Non-discrimination requirements have morphed for us from "treat everyone the same" to "here is a list of groups with special privileges." Generally, it's not that hard at present to fulfill but who knows how onerous it will be in a decade or two?
Walter Olson has been writing a lot about Wal-Mart and FCPA. I don't have a lot to add except my own experience working for a large corporation in third world countries.
I worked for a manufacturer of industrial equipment for years. In most countries in Europe and North America, part of our strategy was a dedicated in-house sales force that could provide a high level of technical support. But we went away from that strategy when we went into third world countries, just the place where we needed more rather than less technical support for our customers.
Why? A big reason was the FCPA. There are many countries where it is simply impossible to do business without paying bribes. Bribes are absolutely wired into the regulatory process. In Nigeria, public officials are paid less with the expectation they will make it up on bribes, similar to the way we pay waiters who get tips. The only way to legally work in these countries is to work through third party resellers and distributors and other such partners, and then tightly close your eyes to how they get things done.
What always ticks me off about these cases is the fake attitude of naivite in the press that seems to be constantly amazed that corporations might have to pay bribes to do basic things we take for granted here, like get the water turned on or have your goods put on a ship. But in fact reporters can't be this naive, as they almost certainly have to deal with many of the same things in their business. I would love to see an accounting of the grease payments the NY Times pays in a year in foreign countries.
I think most people when they hear these foreign bribery cases assume corporations were paying to get a special advantage or to escape some sort of fundamental regulation. And this is possibly the case with Wal-Mart, but more likely they were simply paying because that is what you have to do just to function at all.
Do you ever wonder exactly what problem this Administration is trying to fix, beyond their bureaucrats' concerns that there is some corner of the economy over which they don't have authority?
A proposal from the Obama administration to prevent children from doing farm chores has drawn plenty of criticism from rural-district members of Congress. But now it’s attracting barbs from farm kids themselves.
The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land. ...
The new regulations, first proposed August 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government’s approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course.
Change: We won't satisfied until every single American reaches voting age without a bit of work experience.
I am increasingly convinced that contradictory regulations that make it impossible even for people of goodwill to be in compliance are a feature, not a bug of the current system.
…Common sense dictates that any medication that carries with it a warning that it “may cause drowsiness” or that the patient should “use caution” if operating machinery may pose a risk in the workplace. It is for this reason that many employers adopt a policy requiring employees to self report the use of prescription pain killers. This is especially important in potentially dangerous workplaces such as manufacturing and construction.
In a recent action that defies common sense, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken the position that such policies are unlawful under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The ADA prohibits an employer from conducting “medical inquiries” without a business reason to do so. In EEOC v. Product Fabricators, Inc., an action in federal court in Minnesota, the EEOC required a manufacturing employer to abandon its policy of encouraging employees to inform supervisors if they are under the influence of narcotic pain killers such as Vicodin. The EEOC took the position that an employer cannot ask about prescription pain killer usage unless it has “objective” evidence that an employee is impaired on the job.
This places employers in a very difficult position….
Walter Olson also has comments at the link.
Here is Kevin Drum, where he quotes from an Op/Ed about a new Southern California "Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy"
The plan includes expansion of housing near public transit by 60%....and projections of more than 4 million new jobs — with public transit within half a mile of most of them. Amanda Eaken of the Natural Resources Defense Council praised it as "the strongest transportation plan" in the history of "car-loving Southern California."
.... SCAG's new plan is born of the realization that as a region, we have to grow up, not out. That doesn't mean Hong Kong skyscrapers in Whittier and Redlands. It does mean more apartments near light-rail stations and more vibrant mixed-use areas like the ones in downtown Pasadena, Ventura and Brea. It doesn't mean wresting the car keys from suburban commuters. It does mean making jobs and housing accessible via foot, bike, bus and rail.
Here is his comment on this:
In theory, a plan like this should have almost unanimous support. Developers like it because they can put up denser buildings. Environmentalists like it because it's more sustainable. Urbanists like it because it creates more walkable communities. City governments like it because it creates a stronger tax base.
There's really only one constituency that doesn't like it much: every single person who already lives in these communities and hates the idea of dense, high-rise construction near their homes. So there's going to be fireworks. It'll be interesting to see how the NIMBY bloc gets bought off.
Can you spot which group of people whose preferences have been left out? He considers the preferences of planners, developers, environmentalists, urbanists, and current community residents. That's everyone, right?
Yeah, except for the freaking people who are moving in and actually shopping for a home. Apparently if you are looking for a place to live in California, everyone except for you has a say in what living choices you will find. Want a suburban home on an acre of land -- you are out of luck (unless you get an existing one that is grandfathered in, but those are really, really expensive because they are what everyone really wants but no one in power in California will allow to be built). Your chosen lifestyle has not been approved by your betters.
Today, Aaron Carroll tells us the story of TriCor, aka fenofibrate, a cholesterol drug licensed by Abbott Labs in 1998. Unfortunately, TriCor's patent was due to run out in 2000 and a maker of generic drugs was all set to produce a generic version. So Abbott sued, which delayed the generic version by 30 months:
In the interim, Abbott sought and obtained FDA approval for Tricor-2. That drug was nothing more than a branded reformulation of Tricor-1.Tricor-1 came in 67-mg, 134-mg, and 200-mg capsules; Tricor-2 came in 54-mg and 160-mg tablets. No new trials involving Tricor-2 were submitted to the FDA. But Tricor-2 came out while the generic company was still waiting to make Tricor-1, and thus Tricor-2 began selling with no direct competition.
Six months later, Tricor-2 evidently accounted for 97% of all fenofibrate prescriptions. By the time the generic copies of Tricor-1 came out, no one was taking it anymore, and they couldn’t penetrate the market.
Wash, rinse, repeat. The generic companies petitioned to make generic Tricor-2. Abbott filed a patent infringement suit buying them a 30 month delay. They got to work on Tricor-3. That tablet came in 48-mg and 145-mg doses. No new studies. They got approval. Evidently, 70 days after Tricor-3 was introduced, 70% of users were switched to the new branded drug. By the time the other companies got generic Tricor-2 out, Tricor-3 had 96% of the market.
Apparently, the entire moral blame for this accrues to Abbott, though he admits maybe physicians have some culpability for never prescribing the generic.
Really? I have no particular desire to defend serial rent-seekers like Abbott, but the farce here seems to be in the regulatory system where small changes in what is essentially the packaging size allow companies to protect a government-enforced monopoly for their product. Given the enormous difference in earnings between a monopoly product and one with a generic competitor, it is no surprise that Abbott is going to react to these incentives and use the system as presented to it. In fact, if it did not, its executives would be making a huge ethical lapse in failing in their fiduciary responsibilities.
If you really think this is a corporate greed problem, then why is it that Apple doesn't keep competitors out of the smartphone market by making tiny tweaks to the screen size of the iPhone. Wait, you say, screen size changes don't act as a barrier to competition? Of course not. But then why do changes in capsule size for a given chemical compound? Because of the involvement of the government.
No, the problem here is not Abbott, the problem is a broken government regulatory system. And you can pretty much count on Drum and his allies responding to anyone who actually tries to initiate a reform by streamlining this craziness by screaming that they just want to kill people by relaxing government regulations.
I often write about the large hassles we have to deal with from the government. Here is an example of the myriad of smaller ones:
We have our campground workers in Florida living in their RV on site. As one of the amenities we offer them, we have a 120 gallon propane tank on each employee RV site they can use for their cooking and heating. Unfortunately, the State of Florida has banned connecting propane tanks of this size to a "non-stationary" dwelling. We were grandfathered for a while, but now we have to get rid of all the tanks. Our employees can still have little 5 gallon tanks, but instead of having a truck come by once a year to fill all the large tanks, each of our employees must now drive 20 miles into town dozens of times to fill their little 5 gallon tanks.
Thanks state of Florida -- getting rid of a 120 gallon tank at the price of about a thousand extra miles of driving and two or three full man-days of extra time sure seems like a smart legislative choice to me.
My Forbes article is up this week and uses my company's vendors to compare the power of markets vs. government regulation. A small excerpt:
I am assuming that many readers will have already spotted what these three vendors have in common: all are either highly-regulated government-enforced monopolies (in the case of liquor wholesaling and electric power) or government agencies themselves. As a consumer, I get the worst deal from my vendors in direct proportion to how heavily regulated they are.
As I mentioned the other day, I sometimes have this fantasy that we have some sort of libertarian streak in the Arizona Republican party. The Goldwater Institute and Jeff Flake give me hope. But then the Arizona legislature gets to work and my hopes are dashed.
A big national Republican issue is the excessive power Congress has delegated to the EPA and FDA to regulate and ban substances, from BPA to CO2. So what do the Republicans do in AZ? They propose a law to give an un-elected bureaucracy the power to willy nilly ban substances without a bit of legislative oversight.
The legislature had previously outlawed 30 chemicals that could be used to make the "bath salts"-type mixtures, and dropped another eight substances on the bill Governor Jan Brewer signed last month.
As Boca Raton Florida-based attorney Thomas Wright III told New Times shortly before Brewer signed the legislation, "To suggest they're putting a ban on bath salts is dumbing down the general public."
Republican state Senator Linda Gray is now explaining this to everyone, as she's proposed a new method to attempt banning "bath salts."
House Bill 2388 is the new hope, which would allow the state's Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Public Safety to ban the sales of chemical substances at their pleasure.
According to a Senate fact sheet, the pharmacy board "must make a formal finding that the chemical composition defined by the Board has a potential for abuse and submit the finding to DPS."
The pharmacy board then has to "consult" with DPS about its proposed rule, and that's that. The board just has to let the governor and the legislature know once a year which chemicals it's decided to ban.
So after all the concern about regulation voiced by Republicans about the EPA, they are giving even more sweeping powers to... the Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Public Safety? This should be all the proof you need that the Coke and Pepsi party have equivalent authoritarian streaks. As many other libertarians have observed, the Republicans have a healthy distrust of government, except when it comes to anyone such as the DPS or military that carries a gun, and then they are willing to hand over infinite trust and authority.
In many ways, this law is exactly like the environmental laws Republicans hate that require detailed analyses of potential harms but no counterveiling analysis of benefits. In this case, the Pharmacy board is required to analyze the potential for abuse of chemicals but there is absolutely no language requiring any consideration of the benefits of the substance's use or legality. By the language of the law, if there is a potential for abuse, it must be banned no matter how otherwise useful the product is or could be.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s food police have struck again!
Outlawed are food donations to homeless shelters because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Glenn Richter arrived at a West Side synagogue on Monday to collect surplus bagels — fresh nutritious bagels — to donate to the poor. However, under a new edict fromBloomberg’s food police he can no longer donate the food to city homeless shelters.
It’s the “no bagels for you” edict.
“I can’t give you something that’s a supplement to the food you already have? Sorry that’s wrong,” Richter said.
Richter has been collecting food from places like the Ohav Zedek synagogue and bringing it to homeless shelters for more than 20 years, but recently his donation, including a “cholent” or carrot stew, was turned away because the Bloomberg administration wants to monitor the salt, fat and fiber eaten by the homeless.
Women have wrinkles, pores and curves. And there's a movement across the world to make sure advertisers can no longer pretend otherwise.
Now, that movement has come to Arizona.
House Bill 2793, proposed by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, would require advertisers who alter or enhance a photo to put a disclaimer on that ad alerting customers that "Postproduction techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement. When using this product, similar results may not be achieved."
Really? You mean my wife isn't going to suddenly look like Demi Moore if she uses Dove soap? Next you are going to tell me that drinking Miller Lite does not cause me to suddenly be surrounded by hot women.
Update: Apprarently this is about empowering women by treating them like moronic rubes
"As an organization, we are all about empowering women and eliminating discrimination," Richard said. "We want to make sure that young women get a better start and better self-image."
He said girls need to understand that these photos aren't all real. Someone has airbrushed out the model's wrinkles and pores, or put a woman's head on top of a computer-generated perfect body.
"You need to disclose that so our young women don't grow up thinking a poreless face is possible," he said. "That's not the way that I think anyone wants to raise their daughters."
This could have also been labelled as from the files of "anti-trust is not about consumers." Apparently, a mapmaker in France has successfully sued and won damages from Google for unfair competition, ie from providing Google Maps for free.
Just as in the Microsoft anti-trust case and just about every anti-trust case in history, companies who brought the suit are really trying to stop an up-start competitor from trashing their business model, but they have to couch this true concern in mumbled words about the consumer. Specifically, they raise that ever-popular boogeyman of jacking up prices once the monopoly is secured. The next time this happens, of course, will be the first time. Its a myth. For example, in Google's case, left unsaid is how they would jack up their prices when at least two other companies (Bing, Mapquest) also provide mapping services online for free.
When a country
- Increases the minimum wage, and therefore the minimum skill / productivity needed for a job
- Adds substantially to the costs of labor through required taxes, insurance premiums, pensions, etc
- Makes employees virtually un-fireable, thus forcing companies to think twice about hiring young, unproven employees they may be saddled with, good or bad, for decades
- Puts labor policy in the hands of people who already have jobs (ie unions)
- Shift wealth via social security and medical programs from the young to the old
The bitterly ironic part is that when these folks hit the streets in mass protests, it will likely be for more of the same that put them there in the first place.
Want to argue that such policies are hurting workers rather than helping? Good luck, at least in Italy
Pietro Ichino, a professor of labor law at the University of Milan and a senator in the Italian legislature, is known as the author of several “neoliberal” books and studies recommending that the Italian government relax its extraordinarily stringent regulation of employers’ hiring and firing decisions. As Bloomberg Business Week reports, that means that Prof. Ichino must fear for his life: “For the past 10 years, the academic and parliamentarian has lived under armed escort, traveling exclusively by armored car, and almost never without the company of two plainclothes policemen. The protection is provided by the Italian government, which has reason to believe that people want to murder Ichino for his views.”
Memo to US: Don't get cocky, you are going down the same path
Update: Interesting and sort of related from Megan McArdle
An apparent paradox that frequently puzzles journalists is that Europeans work fewer hours than workers in the United States, while in some countries, hourly productivity appears to be the same, or even higher, than that of American workers.
This is not actually a paradox at all. Much of the decline in European hours worked per-capita came in the form of unemployment. Rigid labor laws which make it hard to fire (and thus, risky to hire) shut less productive workers out of the market, particularly the young, and those who had been displaced due to disruptive industry change. So does anything that raises the cost of labor, like, er, loads of mandatory vacation and leave. When you exclude your least productive workers from the labor force, your measured hourly productivity will be higher, particularly if you use metrics like GDP per hours worked.